If you want proof, just take a look at the best open world games on PC. Even traditionally linear franchises are opening up their worlds. Case in point: The Witcher and Witcher 2 were traditionally narrative-based RPGs, but The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt took that formula and turned it into one of the best open world games we’ve ever played. There are even a ton of the best indie games that adopt this style.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention all the excellent franchises that have been open world games from the beginning. Games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Grand Theft Auto V take open world game design to a whole new level.
There’s a surplus of excellent open world games on PC, but since they take up so much free time, you should only go for the best of the best. Luckily, we here at TechRadar spend way too much time playing open world games, so we know which are the best open world games to recommend.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The first two Witcher games were compelling, complex and challenging, but only enjoyed minor success. However, all the word of mouth about the first two games finally paid off when the Witcher 3 came out and absolutely blew up. It was a massive step up in quality as well, and arguably one of the best RPGs of all time.
You step in the role of Geralt, a mutated monster hunter or witcher, and scour the world for your adopted daughter in a medieval period ravaged by war. Geralt can walk, ride or sail across the war-ravaged lands (and seas) of Novigrad, Velen and Skellige. You can forage for herbs, explore under the seas or the back alleys of cities, and encounter all kinds of folk and creatures. And the other elements of the game are spectacularly polished as well - limber, agile combat, a deep levelling system and a storyline with some unusually-smart storylines. Plus, with the Blood and Wine expansion, you’ll be able to take on a clan of Vampires in the colorful land of Toussaint, too.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is now four years old, but it definitely stands the test of time and is still one of the best open world games on the market right now. This well-realized world blows the likes of Skyrim out of the water.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins already felt like a revelation of what an Assassin’s Creed game could be – replacing many of the gameplay mechanics with what felt more immersive, organic and even fun. But, Ubisoft wasn’t done. With Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, it has refined everything that made Assassin’s Creed: Origins so great and molded it into the best game in the series so far.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey places you in the shoes of Alexios or Kassandra in the middle of ancient Greece, as you take on the role of a mercenary trying to find his or her family. Everything else you do is completely up to you – you choose your alliances, you choose your missions and the world is your oyster.
The fantastic RPG mechanics from Origins make a return in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, coming alongside some much-needed improvements. In so many ways, this game perfects the legendary series’ formula – making for one of the best open world games of all time.
Plus, if the massive world wasn’t already enough content for you, Ubisoft is constantly updating it with new content, new mercenaries to hunt down and even some fresh expansions. And, if you pick up the season pass, you get access to Assassin's Creed III Remastered, which includes Assassin’s Creed: Liberation.
Forza Horizon 4
You might not quite understand why Forza Horizon 4 is even on a list of the best open world games. You might think, “Forza is a racing series, not an open world game”. You’re only half right, however. Yes, it’s definitely a racing game, but the Forza Horizon series has always sat among the best open world games. And, Forza Horizon 4 takes that winning formula even further.
Not only are all of the systems that were in place in 2016’s Forza Horizon 3 present here, but they’re also refined to create one of the smoothest open world racing games we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
The map is a tad smaller than the previous offering, but Forza Horizon 4’s world changes seasons every week, changing how each track plays every time you play it (or, at least until you’ve played it on 4 separate weeks). Simply put, Forza Horizon 4 is one of the most fun racing games on the market, and with all the added open world content – like collectable cars and randomly placed ramps – it’s also one of the best open world games on the market.
Plus, there are new expansions getting added, like Forza Horizon 4: Fortune Island, to add even more content.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V has been out for quite a while now, but because we still don’t have Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC, it’s still the best open world game on PC from Rockstar. It’s a huge pastiche of L.A. through which you can fly, run or drive across. It’s an amazing achievement, and the fact that it works in multiplayer is astounding.
What makes it such a success is the freedom it gives you. When you’re not running around and robbing banks during the campaign, GTA V basically lets you do whatever you want – even if it breaks the game. You can go anywhere, do anything and commit however many atrocities as your wicked heart desires.
There are also a ton of activities available on the side. This means that in your downtime, when you’re not creating all kinds of mayhem, you can take up some tennis, do yoga or even kick your feet up and watch some TV. There’s a reason this game is so beloved.
Metal Gear Solid V
The plot may not have made much sense, but Hideo Kojima’s last entry to the Metal Gear series was a masterpiece of layered open world mechanics – and it’s why we’re so excited about Death Stranding.
In the twin deserts of Afghanistan and Angola, Big Boss, or Venom Snake, has a range of objectives to achieve. As him, you roam the areas on foot, horseback or in a variety of ground vehicles. You can take either lethal or non-lethal weapons, and a variety of AI companions.
The world of Metal Gear Solid V is unbelievably bleak, weather-torn and heavily guarded. Uniquely, it learns from your behavior – overuse a particular tactic and enemies will adapt. For instance, rely too much on headshots and they’ll start to wear metal helmets.
Away from the frontline, you can develop Mother Base by building new facilities and airlifting enemy soldiers, prisoners, resources, vehicles, animals and anything else you want to from the battlefield to beef up your armory.
Bethesda has made a name for itself over the last couple of decades for making some of the best open world games, and Fallout 4 is a fantastic example of why. You’ll be able to traverse a post-apocalyptic Boston, where you’ll explore the ruins of the city in all it’s retro-futuristic glory.
While the plot ultimately revolves around rescuing your kid from their kidnappers, you might ultimately forget all about the plot with all those side missions and plunder loot from super mutants and bandits.
And, even once you get everything done (if you ever get everything done), Bethesda’s games have a tendency to be immensely replayable thanks to the way different character builds can interact with the world around you.
If you want to get even closer to the action, you can play through Fallout 4 in VR, with the HTC Vive.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War
When Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was unveiled nearly five years ago, it was heralded for its portrayal of Tolkien’s Mordor as well as its unique nemesis system. The sequel, Middle Earth: Shadow of War, takes this concept and turns it up to 11, letting you roam in the last human stronghold in Mordor – and is thus one of the best open world games you can immerse in 2019.
And, especially after the removal of the microtransactions that plagued the game at launch, the Nemesis system still feels fresh, and the combat is just as good as ever, with a wealth of new skills that you can unlock during its lengthy campaign.
Plus, later in the game, it will start introducing some RTS elements as you command an army of dominated orcs to retake different strongholds. The Middle Earth series has shown some real innovation, and we can’t wait to see what else is Monolith Studios capable of in the future.
Ghost Recon Wildlands
Last year, Ubisoft took one of the most venerated squad-based shooter series in its arsenal, Ghost Recon, and turned it into an open-world delight. You’re set loose in Bolivia, tasked with taking down a drug cartel that has taken power over the region. And by set loose, we mean you’re free to pursue this goal however you feel like.
Ghost Recon Wildlands may be one of the best open world games when you’re playing by yourself, but where it really shines is when you’re playing with friends. This is because Ghost Recon, at its very core, has always been a tactical shooter that’s built around working with a team of AI companions. So, naturally, when you team up with your friends, this gameplay is elevated to another level entirely.
Just keep in mind that this game is gorgeous, which means it demands a pretty beefy setup to run properly, so make sure to pay close attention to those system requirements.
When the first Crackdown was released back in 2007, it kind of changed the game. You took the role of a superpowered cop out to bust a cast of zany criminals. And, while Crackdown 3 hasn’t evolved much in the 12 years since, it still has its own identity.
Crackdown 3 takes the super-powered hijinks of the original and scales it to modern graphics without changing too much of what made the original game so great. This might make it feel a little dated to some folks, but if you were into the first one, you’ll find a lot to love here.
What really stands out is the new Wrecking Zone multiplayer game mode, which utilizes the power of Microsoft Azure cloud computing to make the entire city destructible.
Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 might just be the epitome of what the best open world games on PC must look like in 2019. Far Cry 5 is unique in the fact that it allows you to truly go anywhere on the map – not to mention, do anything. And, as it doesn’t water this freedom down by limiting the amount of space you have open to you either, it’s perhaps one of the biggest game maps we’ve ever explored.
Far Cry 5 takes place in the middle of the Montana wilderness, and while it does feature a plot that involves cultists or something, that all falls into the background as you wander around and get lost in the massive world. We haven’t finished Far Cry 5, and we don’t think ‘finished’ exists in this game.
We’re not the only ones that love Far Cry 5 either. At the Game Awards 2018, Ubisoft announced Far Cry: New Dawn, a direct follow-up – a first for the classic shooter series.
For years, the Yakuza franchise has been a bit of a hidden gem, but recently these fantastic games have gained some well-deserved mainstream success. And, thanks to this success, these classic titles are finally, albeit slowly, making their way to PC. Yakuza Kiwami is the remake of the first Yakuza title, which was released nearly 13 years ago in the US.
With this game, PC gamers can finally see how the franchise got its start, placing players in the shoes of Kazuma Kiryu as he fights his way through the Yakuza’s ranks. It’s a compelling mix of serious storytelling and silly moments – something that the Yakuza series would become famous for over the years.
When RAGE came out back in 2010, it was critically panned for being a technical mess on PC. Now, almost a decade later Rage 2 is here, and it has improved dramatically on almost every aspect of the original. So much so that it’s made our best open world games of 2019 list.
id Software teamed up with Avalanche Studios to bring a perfect marriage of excellent gunplay and open-world shenanigans. You’re let loose in the middle of a surprisingly colorful post-apocalyptic wasteland, where you’re free to destroy everything in your path.
Not only are there a ton of big guns, but you also get a bunch of deadly Ark powers that you can use to eviscerate your enemies. The mark of a true Rage 2 pro will be the ability to combine all of these abilities together into visceral chains of carnage.
The gameplay feels excellent, and you’ll have so much fun blowing everything up that you’ll hardly notice how empty the open world is. And, really, that’s exactly what we wanted out of an open world shooter from id Software, especially after the excellent Doom 2016.